It is widely acknowledged that SaaS-based solutions for CRM and other areas of Business
Process Automation have the potential to revolutionize not just the software industry, but
the entire industrial sector since they enable small to mid-sized companies to deploy
enterprise-class software infrastructures at minimal initial cost and so compete more
effectively with Fortune 500 corporations.
However, while the SaaS model lowers the barrier to entry, it creates a number of new
challenges and costs that affect customers and VAR's. This paper analyzes these issues and
describes technologies by which they can be reduced or eliminated, illustrated by case
SaaS products face unique challenges in the areas of Upgrades, Scalability, Security,
Reliability, Setup/Configuration and Backup, but before reviewing them, let’s briefly recap
why these issues are less significant for traditional software serving single customers from
behind their firewall.
Upgrades - The system is upgraded at the time most convenient for a single customer.
Scalability – Traditional software serves a single company and simply needs a single server
powerful enough to address that company's needs.
Reliability – Traditional hot-swap redundancy or clustering technology adequately address
the needs of a single company and there are significant portions of each week, or even each
day when the system can be taken offline for hardware and OS maintenance/upgrades.
Security – The customer administrators simply have full access to the entire system.
Setup and Configuration – Setup times of several days are perfectly acceptable, in fact the
effective setup time may take weeks when the system is provisioned on specially ordered
Backup – When there is only one company using a system, there are no problems with
simply restoring the entire system from a database backup.
As detailed below, the situation is more challenging when CRM is offered as a SaaS service.
Scalability The failure of the old ASP model demonstrated that offering
software as a service is only economically viable if multiple
customers can be centrally managed and hosted.
This requires a hardware/hosting infrastructure that can
dynamically allocate additional computer resources as the customer
base grows. However, there is no point in allocating additional
machines without grid-aware software that scales across multiple
servers without bottlenecks such as application/database locking.
In brief, offering a SaaS solution requires both a SaaS-compliant
software and hardware infrastructure.
Reliability As multiple customers are served by a centrally managed SaaS
application, the system will be accessed by users in different
international time zones and must therefore be accessible 24/7, yet
hardware failures are inevitable. This requires a software
infrastructure that can dynamically and automatically switch
between physical machines without losing customer data or
interrupting service for longer than a few minutes.
Upgrades Software upgrades are managed by the software provider and apply
to all customers on that server. During the course of the upgrade,
which may last for several hours, the server is either entirely offline
or unavailable for write operations. This can present a severe
problem if it occurs during a busy period for the customer and some
customers have calendar-based busy periods that include
weekends. The SaaS infrastructure must therefore be flexible
enough to schedule upgrades for different customers at different
Security The need to host multiple customers on the same server heightens
the security issues that are common to web applications. Not only
must the application be secure against traditional hackers, there
must be full isolation of data between customers on the same
server, sharing the same CPUs, memory and database. This
requirement also precludes the customer from operations that
depend upon direct database/OS access.
Setup and The primary selling point of SaaS is the low cost of entry; so setting
Configuration up the application for a new customer must be fast and highly
Backup Some customers are inevitably going to make mistakes and delete
or damage critical data, requiring that their system be reverted to
an earlier backup.
This must be doable without reverting all other customer’s data that
resides within the same database. Backups therefore cannot simply
rely on database backup technology, but must backup each
customer separately. Further, the systems must continue to be
accessible during creation of these backups and restoration of one
backup must not affect other customers.
This section details how the combination of EnterpriseWizard CRM with the 3tera grid
infrastructure addresses each of the challenges detailed above.
Scalability depends upon executing multiple processes in parallel, i.e. pipelining. 3tera CRM
scales across multiple servers on the grid and automatically assigns transaction-data in Java
to spread the load evenly across CPU's to optimize the use of computing resources and
ensure that service levels are maintained.
The result is that the base system can handle over 60,000 records per hour and
performance increases by over 80% with each doubling of the number or processors - a
level of scalability that can easily handle the demands of the world's largest corporations.
A grid-computing environment provides full redundancy, so that if one physical machine
dies, the OS instance is automatically started on another and full service is restored in a
matter of minutes. The data itself is copied across multiple physical servers so that no
information is lost, even in the event of a catastrophic failure of one or two machines.
If a server dies, the queuing manager automatically re-routes its tasks to the remaining
servers. Additional machines may be added to the grid and activated without affecting
running processes, so hardware may be replaced, repaired and upgraded without downtime.
E-Grid CRM builds on the billion dollar investment by firms such as IBM and Sun in J2EE for
enterprise systems and has been independently certified as free of security holes.
Dedicated virtual servers with full redundancy can be provisioned in the space of 30 minutes
for customers who want direct database or ssh/sftp access to their system, all
without having to provision additional physical hardware.
The availability of dedicated virtual servers allows customers to schedule upgrades at the
time most convenient for them, rather than the time chosen by the CRM vendor.
Setup and Configuration
New instances of EnterpriseWizard CRM applications can be provisioned in a matter of
minutes and customized online.
The backup facility allows automated backups of application instances to be scheduled at
any time and not only does the system remain online and fully operational during backups,
but the backup time of each instance may be individually scheduled.
The greatest driving factor behind the adoption of SaaS is speed of deployment, but rapid
deployment is worthless unless the product meets the customer's specific requirements.
EnterpriseWizard CRM provides robust out-of-box functionality, and unlike other systems, it
is built on a 100% adaptive technology core named SaaSWizard that dramatically reduces
the time it takes to address customer specific requirements. The SaaSWizard modules
available for functionality extensions are summarized below. Read More
Core Functionality Customization and API's
Alerts and Escalation Custom Tables
Attached Files Custom Tables Relationships
Activity Logs and Reports Custom Interface
Audit Trail and History Custom Look and Feel
Automatic Hotlinks Custom Data Views
Automatic Login Custom Data Fields
Automatic Reports Custom Choice Tables
Asset Discovery and WMI Support Custom Graphic Images
Business Rules Engine Custom Fonts
Business Rules Wizard Database Schema
Dashboards Drag&Drop Customization
Database Search/Sorting Field Types
Email Hotlinks Import / Export
Full Text Search Multiple Custom Brandings
Graphical Charts Multi-Tab Input Forms
Graphical Workflow On-line Customization
HTML Editor REST API
Instant Messaging Scripts API
Incoming E-mail Integration Web Services API
Interactive Reports Permissions and Access Control
Issue Tracking and Management Field Level Permissions
Multi-language Support LDAP Integration
Outgoing E-mail Integration Password Configuration
Saved Searches Record Level Permissions
Self Registration User Groups
Single Sign On Web Interface for Users
Standard Solutions Web Interface for Staff
Trend Charts and Reports
The following selection of case studies illustrates how this solution is addressing the needs
of organizations that range from startups to the world's largest corporations.
After a failed MS CRM deployment, the company selected
3tera CRM early in 2007. The system has received over a
million support tickets in the first two years and is
currently handling over 50,000 tickets per month with
ease, while supporting users around the world. Read More
LexNet Consulting Group
LexNet built ManuLogic, a support product targeted at
serialized equipment manufacturers, in less than a month
and made its first sale before even announcing the
product. Read More
A custom Sarbanes Oxley solution for Chevron Corp took
less than two calendar months to develop and went into
full production use on time and on budget. Read More
The combination of a grid infrastructure and a CRM software suite architected to exploit its
capabilities gives customers the benefits of a SaaS service coupled with the advantages of
on-premise software for security, direct database access and the timing of upgrades. The
result is an enterprise-class CRM system and infrastructure at a commodity price point.